(Jacques-Louis de Beaulieu)

This project will contribute to the objectives of the key action 2 (Global Change, Climate and Biodiversity). It will develop a scientific basis and provide technological tools for understanding past changes in the environment (more specifically, inter- and intra-species biodiversity in forest ecosystems, key action 2.2). As these past changes were climatically induced, it will also form a basis for understanding potential changes in diversity caused by human-induced climate changes. This basic knowledge will help to distinguish between the natural and anthropogenic-induced changes. By exploring the extent to which the genetic diversity of six economically major forest tree species resulted from climate warming during the Holocene, our project explicitly focuses on the dynamics of biodiversity (point 2.2.3: Assessing and conserving biodiversity). More specifically, we will contribute to develop methods to understand and quantify drivers, mechanisms and dynamics of biodiversity in and between species' (2.2.3). As we will also develop methods to study the extinction of species and lineages, by identifying these genetic entities through time, we should gain insights into species survival and critical thresholds for the loss of biodiversity (2.2.3).

The comparison between past and present genetic structure of six forest trees, some extensively managed in plantations due to their economical importance, will better identify where these species can be considered as autochthonous. This will provide criteria, methods, indicators and strategy that will help to conserve biodiversity (2.2.3) in a context of increased artificialisation of natural landscapes through plantations with non-local (often genetically improved) material.

This project will also contribute to other general objectives of the European Union. First, innovative molecular tools will be developed and shared among the participants of this project for the isolation and analysis of partly degraded DNA from plant tissues such as dry wood. This will open the way to new strategies that can be developed separately, including by a SME involved in the project. Ecocertification of wood products originating from specific regions of the EU could benefit from the technological developments realised in this project. Also, taxonomic identification of wood tissues, often difficult when based on anatomy alone, will benefit from the developments of a molecular Atlas of European woody plants. This could help preserve the artistic and cultural heritage of Europe, by helping museums to restore, or better understand the origin of works of art made of wood or archaeological remains of particular interest (e.g., to detect whether they were made locally or were imported). Tracing the geographic origin of oak wood used by the barrel industry and other products with high added-value will allow reliable certification of the wood, in answer to a demand for high-quality products of local origin.